Naomi Rose : Rough Drafts, Revisions
“We Build the Road as We Travel”
The Creative, Evolutionary Need for Book Writers to Tolerate (Even Accept) the Process of Rough Drafts and Revisions
By Naomi Rose
It's human to want to create something all finished, all perfect, all at once, from the outset. A flash of desire or inspiration seizes us, and we begin the lengthy process of writing a book that began in our hearts. We set out with perhaps some trepidation, but also a sense of new beginnings: a destination to be reached, and a path as yet not fully known.
The strength of our desire, even despite likely internal obstacles ~ self-doubt, lack of experience of being fully encouraged, feeling vulnerable and small ~ is the "big bang" of conception, the birthing-force that brings this world-to-be onto our horizon. Did we not have this desire to bring something new into being ~ to create ~ we could not see the process through. For, as I have written so often, writing a book is a process, and it affects the writer as much as what gets written. And this process, much like gestation, labor, and birth, requires nourishment, caring, commitment, and patience for the long haul.
When you fill out a form, everything is laid out before you: you just fill in the blanks. There is even a book around about how to write a book in this way, similar to the "paint by numbers" approach. This method will, indeed, produce the requisite number of pages, and that output can, technically, be called "a book. But a book that is created ~ more, that is created by a human being who has, in this process, the experience of actually being a creator ~ that requires something else.
There is a phrase I love: "We build the road as we travel." I first came across this as the title of a book about building cooperatives, based on the experience of a meta-cooperative in Spain, Mondragon, a cooperative that has existed since the 1930s, is still alive and well, and has inspired countless other cooperatives. This same phrase came back to me early one morning, as the sun was coming up and I pulled the final page out of my typewriter, fulfilled and happy.
For I had been feeling that something was not quite right with my book-in-progress, Living in MotherWealth, and while still lying in bed in the wee hours my mind and soul were searching to find out what it was. When it came to me, although the alarm clock said 5:30 and my usual rising time is 7:30, I got out of bed and padded into the living room, where my typewriter awaited.
For the next two hours I wrote, in that most-desired way: totally absorbed; still, within; conscious and yet passionate. There were the words and feelings and understandings that had been missing, which added the ingredients that had been missing: depth ~ personal experience that provided a lens by which readers might touch into their own ~ distillation ~ perspective ~ range ~ the weaving of the pieces into a whole. By the time I finished, seven pages later, not only did I feel the deep satisfaction of having found the words to match the inner experience and intent, but I also could see that only by having written the not-quite-right drafts beforehand could I possibly have come to know what I needed to write about, in order to tune the chapter, today.
That is: in order to complete the picture, you need to have something to work with: even rough drafts, false starts, nuggets of gold almost hidden within longer paragraphs of adored (or not-so-adored) verbiage that you know in your heart of hearts will need to go (or at least be revised). True, sometimes you are just sublimely attuned, and what you write comes out all finished the first time: weighted like a feather, nothing could or should be added to it, or it would sink.